Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why Openness?

Why do I believe in open contact even when families are dysfunctional, addicted or even actively participating in criminal acts?

Because I believe it's best for my kids.  I took my son to meet his biological father in a Federal Prison.  Was that easy?  Of course not.  It was scary and overwhelming and slightly nauseating, and that was just for ME, I cannot fathom what he was feeling, but it was still totally the right thing to do. 

Why?  Because my son wanted to.  Because it's his truth and his reality.  Because he has a right to love his parent even if I would rather my kids never talked to anyone who has ever used drugs in their entire lives. 

Because he needed to know with his own ears that he was loved BY THEM. 

My love, my overabundant, over whelming, huge amount of pure love for my kids cannot erase their need and desire to be loved by their original parents. 

And he needed to know it and hear it at five and six and eight and thirteen, not at 18 or 21 or whatever random age the state told him he was allowed to know.   Because he needed to know, for real, that I respected his needs more than I worried about my own insecurities.   Because he needed to see that I LIKED his biological parents good parts in order to truly believe deep down that I loved all of him too.

How could I deny him that?  How could I deny my child ANYTHING he needed even if that means I get really, really uncomfortable.

Is it easy dealing with things that I have absolutely ZERO life experience dealing with?  No.  Honestly, I never thought I would be traipsing to prisons to visit people important to my kids.  I never, ever fathomed that I would EVER have a police officer drop by to retrieve stolen property during a visit with anyone in my life EVER.  I didn't fathom a life where I had to explain to children why the person we are visiting once hurt them, and why it's ok to be angry at someone and then still be ok to love them.  I didn't expect to be comfortable explaining mental illness to a six year old or the effects of sexual promiscuity to a ten year old. 

I have never so much as smoked a cigarette in my life so I never really thought I would have to understand intimately the power of addiction and its affect on my children. 

But you know I really, really love my kids.  And they are really, really amazing kids and they are really, really worth it. 

I understand that some would use any of the ample excuses at my disposal as a reason to close an adoption.   Run-ins with the police, active addiction, inappropriate gifts, uncomfortable situations, angry family members, criminal activities are all reasons we hear for closing up relationships.  My kids first parents live complicated, confusing, difficult lives.  That I do not deny. And I love them. 

I love them because I see in their eyes the beauty that is my children.  I see that with a different life and different choices and different supports they could have and would have and most importantly SHOULD HAVE been safe parents to our children.  I see pain and broken hearts and hurting people.  And I see parents.  Parents who have little to give other than love, and that's ok with me.

These complicated, difficult people who make horrible choices in many areas of their lives treat me, and our family, with respect.  I don't know why they do, but they do.  So I trust them to love their children, our children, my children within the boundaries that are safe.  And they do.  And if ever we are not treated in a why I wish we were, I forget easily, forgive quickly and explain endlessly our boundaries.

Yesterday, after all the craziness of puppies and police, I watched my two year old be snuggled by her other mother.  The woman from whom she inherited her beautiful smile and striking eyes.  The woman from whom she inherited a curiosity that cannot be stated.  The woman who created her.  And that woman, that mother, said over and over again "I love you!  I love you!  I love you".

My two year old who can't sit still longer than 40 seconds may not value those words today, but I know she would one day feel their absence intimately.   She may never know what it costs both of the mothers sitting in that room to forge a relationship together, but she will know she was loved deeply by both of us. 

And that is a good enough reason for me.

32 comments:

Kate said...

Jen, this says exactly what I feel about our open adoption. I was trying to explain it today to someone who is adopting but doesn't want any openness. Our child needs a positive relationship with her birth parents - bottom line, nothing else matters.

You said it all and said it well. Your kids are truly fortunate to have such a great mom.

Anonymous said...

THAT is an amazing post. I am going to print it out, to use in the future when people ask me WHY ON EARTH I would allow my child to see his 1st parents. You just put into writing all the reason I DO ALLOW my child's 1st parents to see him. Thanks you!

Eileen

birthmothertalks said...

Thanks for sharing. If only more people thought like you.

katiemae said...

Thanks Jen, you said that so perfectly well.

Regina said...

Hallelujah! Exactly, Jen.

OpenAdoptMomOf3 said...

Oh YES YES YES YES... how incredible that you can capture the essence of it all in one post. Jen, you have to route that for publication somewhere. Maybe Brenda would know? It touched me to the core.

lance said...

Thanks for saying what I feel in my heart...There's a message we send to our children when we love & accept their biological families... unconditional love...& that all are worthy of love.

thanksgivingmom said...

Wonderful, beautiful reasons indeed. :)

I might have to share this when I come across the people that NEED to hear such compelling reasons.

thank you!

Anonymous said...

i being a birth mother think openness is a good thing for everyone! if a mother chooses adoption then she obviously has the childs best intrest at heart and i think they should be given every opportunity to be apart of the childs life reguardless of the situation... because if it wasnt for the birth parents you would never have the special spirit in your lives so instead of judging the background of the birthparents just love them and support them. birthparents never want to place for adoption we love our baby very much more than anything in th world but we just know at that point in our lives we cant give them what he/she deserves. because you have no idea how hard it is to place a child for a adoption. i just get sick when i hear adoptive families closing their relationships with their birth parents

Shane, Meg, CJ and R-Baby said...

I am new to your blog and so glad for my friend posting the link to this post. This post was beautifully written! As an adoptive mother who fully supports openness when it is possible, I get a lot of criticism for my opinions. I love how you put every word in this post. So well written. You had me in chills and tears as I identified with your powerful words and wanted to yell AMEN!! Thank you for sharing your perspective!!!

birthMOM said...

beautiful post!
im going to link to it on our birthmother blog!
adoption luvs

Artemis said...

I happened across your blog thanks to a google reader recommendation. I've only read a few posts (I hope to catch up on some more soon) but I just wanted to say, well, "hi" and that I'm going to start following you in my reader, but also, and I hope this doesn't sound totally pathetic, but I think you're really awesome for taking the attitude you're taking and it's very inspiring to know that there are people like you out there who just do the right thing because it's the right thing to do (whether it's related to adoption or not.)

Karine said...

I love your blog. It really does say it all, all the should be said, all that I struggle to say so beautifully. Thank you :) I look forward to reading more :)

Amanda said...

(sorry if this is a double-post, it gave me an error message)

All I can say is wow...thank you for being who you are and for writing this.

I am an Adult Adoptee and I usually feel like adoptee experiences are very marginalized when I come to Adoptive Parent or Prospective Adoptive Parent blogs. So many times I find things that are completely disrespectful to Original Families and it makes me say...."wait a minute, but your child is PART of that family too!" I don't think they know the impact it has on their children when they say mean things about the Original Parents or when their Adoptive Parents emit fear of the Original Parents--the kids do notice. I always did anyway.

I'll also see people preferring closed adoptions or being so concerned with being able to adopt that they promise the prospective surrendering mother all sorts of contact and openness and I wonder how prepared they really are to handle that, if they consider how uncomfortable it will make them, and if they will uphold the promises they've made to her and to their child.

Adoptive Parenting is unique parenting. There are a unique set of challenges and special needs that ALL adoptees, even perfect seemingly trouble-free infants, have. Part of Adoptive Parenting is loving a child unconditionally when they come with a family, identity, heritage, and needs that exist outside of your family that need to be incorporated into your family system.

I was adopted at the end of the "closed era" in the United States. I was chopped off at the roots. I never knew if my Original Mother was OK and I had a need to know her and be loved by her. I never knew who I was before I was adopted or what happened to me before I was adopted at 5 months old. I didn't know my heritage or geneology. I didn't feel included in so many aspects of every day life that the biologically-raised obliviously enjoy and take forgranted because the information just wasn't available to me. I would have given anything to have the openness that you are describing here, and to have been free to feel and have the relationships that I wanted to and not have that taken away FOR me. It wasn't my parent's fault, it was the nature of adoption at the time.

I am in reunion now and gazing into the eyes of the mother who looks just like me....I know how much I've missed.

I am so happy that you trust your children to love you and to have room for everyone in their hearts, even when other mommies and daddies are in the picture. I think this is so great.

Ok...my ramble is over :-)

Amanda said...

All I can say is wow...thank you for being who you are and for writing this.

I am an Adult Adoptee and I usually feel like adoptee experiences are very marginalized when I come to Adoptive Parent or Prospective Adoptive Parent blogs. So many times I find things that are completely disrespectful to Original Families and it makes me say...."wait a minute, but your child is PART of that family too!" I don't think they know the impact it has on their children when they say mean things about the Original Parents or when their Adoptive Parents emit fear of the Original Parents--the kids do notice. I always did anyway.

I'll also see people preferring closed adoptions or being so concerned with being able to adopt that they promise the prospective surrendering mother all sorts of contact and openness and I wonder how prepared they really are to handle that, if they consider how uncomfortable it will make them, and if they will uphold the promises they've made to her and to their child.

Adoptive Parenting is unique parenting. There are a unique set of challenges and special needs that ALL adoptees, even perfect seemingly trouble-free infants, have. Part of Adoptive Parenting is loving a child unconditionally when they come with a family, identity, heritage, and needs that exist outside of your family that need to be incorporated into your family system.

I was adopted at the end of the "closed era" in the United States. I was chopped off at the roots. I never knew if my Original Mother was OK and I had a need to know her and be loved by her. I never knew who I was before I was adopted or what happened to me before I was adopted at 5 months old. I didn't know my heritage or geneology. I didn't feel included in so many aspects of every day life that the biologically-raised obliviously enjoy and take forgranted because the information just wasn't available to me. I would have given anything to have the openness that you are describing here, and to have been free to feel and have the relationships that I wanted to and not have that taken away FOR me. It wasn't my parent's fault, it was the nature of adoption at the time.

I am in reunion now and gazing into the eyes of the mother who looks just like me....I know how much I've missed.

I am so happy that you trust your children to love you and to have room for everyone in their hearts, even when other mommies and daddies are in the picture. I think this is so great.

Ok...my ramble is over :-)

Katrina said...

Jen, Thank you for posting this. We just adopted a little girl from the foster care system after being in the reunification process with her birth parents for 18 months. Her parents ended up reliquishing their rights to us because they felt it was in her best interest. We were told by the courts that they didn't advise further communication with the birth parents but we have felt that this would not be in the best interest of our daughter. Some visits have been hard as I watch the things they struggle with but I also love to see the way our daughter lights up when she sees them. There were times when I felt a little jealous that she still wanted to be around them but remembered that she can be loved by all of us. She is still so young and there are some things I will want to try and protect her from until she is a little older but I am grateful to you for helping me express to others who don't approve of this why it is I am doing it. I never want her to feel like she was unloved by anyone. Thanks again.

Katrina said...

Jen, Thank you for posting this. We just adopted a little girl from the foster care system after being in the reunification process with her birth parents for 18 months. Her parents ended up reliquishing their rights to us because they felt it was in her best interest. We were told by the courts that they didn't advise further communication with the birth parents but we have felt that this would not be in the best interest of our daughter. Some visits have been hard as I watch the things they struggle with but I also love to see the way our daughter lights up when she sees them. There were times when I felt a little jealous that she still wanted to be around them but remembered that she can be loved by all of us. She is still so young and there are some things I will want to try and protect her from until she is a little older but I am grateful to you for helping me express to others who don't approve of this why it is I am doing it. I never want her to feel like she was unloved by anyone. Thanks again.

Lala's world said...

beautiful and amazing Jen!

Anonymous said...

Great Post about why it's important to not let the things that normally would cause one to move away from open adoption, reflect, ponder and realize, that openess is always better then secrets, even when we think we are protecting our children. Sometimes we protect them by letting them accept the reality of their situations and accept that no one is perfect.

Tamra said...

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! FOR "GETTING IT" AND FOR SHARING IT!

Julie said...

Thank you so much for this post. Just what this foster adopt mama needed to hear. Even if it is hard and challenging and a little bit scarey -- openness is worth it because of our little boy. I would love to hear the boundaries that you have set up. We are in the early stages of our adoption and still trying to find the right balance. Any advice you have would be great.

thebucknerfamily at gmail dot com

Natalie at Our Old Southern House said...

found this today frm the r house and i'm crying now.
i was adopted as an infant and had a completely closed adoption for 29 years of my life. you hit it right on the head when you said that you know that your kids want to be loved by their birth parents...and that they want you to see you at least like and/or respect their birth parents b/c then you can really love them.
that was so wonderfully written and so very true. i've never heard a non-adopted person/adoptive parent GET IT like you.
{and as also a person who is in the process of adopting i hope to be just like you.}
thank you for posting that. it was perfect.

Lacie said...

Awesome and very insightful post. I am going to move forward as a soon to be adoptive mom, with your words whispering in my hear.

.From Her. said...

Wow. Wow. Wow. This is everything I have ever wanted to say on the topic. Thank you.

GrittyPretty said...

Thank you! This gave me chills (of happiness) because I know what you've written is RIGHT ON. I just didn't know how to express it! So yup. Thank you.

Carly said...

Jen,

I hope to be able to compile my thoughts even half as well as you have articulated yourself in this post.
This post is the epitimy of Grace,Unconditional Love, Charity, Forgiveness, Hope, and any other word that correlates with selflessness.
You see, I am a birth mom to my 2nd daughter who turned 4 in August of 2011. I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful family for her to be in. I thank the Heavens and the Earth that she is with her mom and dad. They have allowed me to be in her life since day one.
One the otherhand, I also have a daughter who will be turning 11 in February of 2012. I raised her on my own from day one until February of 2011. In a nutshell her father saw it fit to prove me "emotional unfit" to continue raising my daughter on my own any longer. She was taken away from me February of this year, the most hellish day of my life. I rarely see her, rarely talk to her and her father continues to badger me with the most petty details as if he wants to "punish" me for his past choices.
My point to all this is that, here you have children whose first parents are in less then ideal circumstances yet because they hold the answers to questions your children have and because they are the reason for your children being who they physically are today, you are able to look past their weaknesses and all your children the opportunity to obtain the answers to their questions from the horses mouth so to speak. I don't know if you will ever be aware in this lifetime the profound impact that you will have on the life of your children. The example that you are to them of pure charity will cause them to be more accepting of those they may encounter in their lifetime.
I could only wish that my oldest daughters father would be able to have his judgement of me but realize the importance of me in my daughters life and realize that no matter what him and his wife do, there are questions and answers that only I will have for her.
I feel that this post encompases so much more about relationships in general then just about adoption. This post opens a window for us to see how rich ones life may be simply by placing our own judgements aside along with our own fears and in turn being able to partake of some of the most enriching experiences of our lives, although they may not be the "easiest".
Thank you again for opening your mind and heart and sharing what so many of us feel within the multiple facets of relationships out there.

Brooke Randolph, LMHC said...

So glad Lindsey Redfern directed me here.... All I need today is Yes, yes, yes! I'm adding you to my blogroll. I am sure you don't write to be thanked, but it makes my heart happy when people get adoptive parenting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for articulating what we so frequently try to explain to others. Our son's birth mother is very young,she made a mistake but made the very brave choice to see her pregnancy through and trust my husband and I with him. We promised her we would love, protect, teach and respect his roots. This isn't any different than having a biological child. Many don't understand why we so badly want to maintain this connection for him until he's able to choose and do so himself. I will forward this onto others.

Ali said...

A good friend of mine referred me to your blog, and specifically, this post after I told her about some recent concerns regarding one of my son's birthparents. This post brought tears to my eyes!!! Thank you for writing this, for explaining it so perfectly and for REMINDING my mind what my heart knows. Truely, it has helped clarify things for me immensely.

Ali said...

A good friend of mine referred me to your blog, and specifically, this post after I told her about some recent concerns regarding one of my son's birthparents. This post brought tears to my eyes!!! Thank you for writing this, for explaining it so perfectly and for REMINDING my mind what my heart knows. Truely, it has helped clarify things for me immensely.

Tamra said...

i just thought you should know, i share this post like, alot. what an example of recognizing what is your own (justified) "stuff" and being able to set it aside for the sake of your kids. too many people can't see through themselves to know clearly what their babies need. so many use so much weaker reasons to shut that door. thank you again!

Jess said...

I really liked this post! We are just beginning our adoption journey, and blogging about it as we go. I linked to this post in one of my posts about open adoption. Just wanted to let you know-- I'm a new blogger, and apparently that is the proper etiquette :)

http://whenthestorkgetsconfused.blogspot.com/2015/02/research-how-adoptive-parents-feel.html